Last week, the Government of Canada released its budget for 2022. At 304 pages in length, it’s not quite the 725-page behemoth that was last year’s budget but for most sitting down with the Government’s fiscal plan isn’t necessarily the definition of an exciting evening.
But budgets do matter, and they impact our lives. They are a clear indicator of the priorities of the government of the day and outline the path forward on key policy initiatives to address those priorities.
In short, it’s the Government’s master plan for the year ahead.
To save you the time of sitting down with 300+ page policy book, we’ve once again gone through the budget and present to you our annual “Budget by the numbers”—a quick overview of how often the government is talking about key topics related to net zero, climate change and energy in their 2022 budget.
A count of references to key topics gives us a good sense of the importance of certain topics. And, when we track those references through the years (looking at budgets from previous years), we can get a good sense of their growing or waning importance.
Last year, we conducted this same exercise using the following terms, comparing those over time with budgets from 2011 and 2019:
nuclear/small modular reactor.
Here’s how the numbers stand up over the years, including this year’s budget:
"carbon" (including "decarbonize")
"nuclear" / "small modular reactor"
Here are some of my top takeaways (and reminders) after looking at these numbers:
Size matters. It’s important to note that the 2021 budget was more than double the size (in terms of page count) than this budget. Therefore, it’s not surprising that there are fewer references to “climate change” this time around. Especially given that we have a federal department with the title: “Environment and Climate Change”. Don’t read into this decline.
Doubling down on net zero. Despite the document being half the size, references to “net zero” more than double. A clear indicator that the government is focused on the global goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Need a refresher on net zero? We got you. Watch our quick explainer video here.
Net zero needs nuclear. This budget is a clear indicator that nuclear has a role to play in achieving a net zero future. In fact, for the first time, there are specific references to the role that nuclear technologies will play in a net zero future—and funding to back it up. The opportunity is recognized clearly in the budget when it is stated: “Support to develop this technology [small modular reactors] can position Canada as a clean energy leader…” (pg. 99)
These numbers point to a positive budget for our net zero ambitions and nuclear’s role in meeting those goals. But the proof, as always, will be in the implementation of the policies associated with these words.
Having had the budget in our hands for just a few days, we’ll need more time to comb through in great detail—but, on the surface and by the numbers, the right words are there.
Chad Richards is the Director of the Bruce Power Centre for New Nuclear & Net Zero Partnerships.